Heroes of the East

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Heroes of the East
Directed by Lau Kar Leung
Distributed by Shaw Brothers Studio
United States:
Dragon Dynasty(DVD)
Release date
  • December 30, 1978 (December 30, 1978)
Running time
100 min
Country Hong Kong
Language Mandarin Chinese

Heroes of the East (Chinese: 中華丈夫), also known as Challenge Of The Ninja, Shaolin Vs. Ninja and Shaolin Challenges Ninja is a martial arts film produced in 1978. It starred Gordon Liu and was directed by Lau Kar-Leung. Lau Kar-Leung has a cameo role as a master of Zui Quan. It's notable for portraying Japanese martial arts alongside the more typical Kung-Fu used in most Hong Kong martial arts films.


Ho Tao (Gordon Liu) is a Kung Fu student. His rich father has set up an arranged marriage for him with the daughter of a Japanese business associate. Ho Tao initially objects and feigns illness, but soon thereafter agrees to the marriage when he finds bride to be, Yumiko Kōda ("Kung Zi" in Mandarin), is attractive. After the wedding, he finds out that she is also a martial artist. Ho Tao finds her style of Karate to be violent, unladylike, and potentially immodest and tries to persuade her to learn feminine but also effectual styles of Chinese Kung Fu. She is later offended during an argument over which nation has the superior martial arts styles and eventually goes back to Japan. When he travels to Japan to entreat Kung Zi to be reconciled with her husband, Ho Tao's father finds Kung Zi in training by her childhood friend and rather too attentive martial arts sensei Takeno.

As a ruse to bring her back to China, Ho Tao sends her a letter challenging Japanese martial arts and their inferiority to their Chinese roots. He hopes that the letter will infuriate Kung Zi enough to return to prove that her Japanese styles are as good as the Chinese ones. Once she is back in China, Ho Tao hopes to reconcile with her. But the plan backfires when Takeno reads the letter instead of Kung Zi. Takeno reads the challenge as an affront to Japanese martial arts and declares its contents with other Japanese martial arts masters who travels to China to take up Ho Tao's challenge.

In the first duel, Ho Tao misinterprets a respectful gesture from the Japanese fighter and thus further antagonizes the Japanese contingent. Due to this cultural misunderstanding, the Japanese no longer treat the subsequent duels as exhibitions of their styles but rather as all-out fights. Kung Zi, seeing the gravity of the situation, helps Ho Tao by warning him of Takeno's mastery of ninjutsu.

Chow Kan (Cheng Hong-Yip), Ho Tao's servant, provides a lot of the comedic relief for the film through various schemes that often bring unintended consequences for Ho Tao.

Martial arts[edit]

The film is noted for the exhibitions of various martial-arts styles and weapons:

In a departure from the norm for a Hong Kong film of that time, instead of stereotyping the Japanese characters as villains, the film portrays both the Japanese characters and their fighting skills with respect. Another unusual aspect of the film is that director Lau insisted that none of the fights ended in death. It is consistent with Lau's insistence on no characters being killed when in the film, Ho Tao criticizes the lethal technique of Ninjitsu as being dishonorable. He refers to it as an "ambush" only used by "treacherous criminals", and by contrast "the way of (Chinese) kung fu emphasizes on being fair and open". (All quotes were taken from the subtitle translation used on the Celestial Pictures/IVL DVD release. The English dubbed version, usually titled Shaolin Challenges Ninja, is even more harsh in its assessment of Ninjutsu, with Ho Tao referring to it as "murder" instead of "ambush".)


  • Gordon Liu - Ho Tao
  • Yuka Mizuno - Yumiko "Kung Zi" Kōda
  • Ouyang Sha-fei
  • Chan Lung
  • Cheng Hong-Yip - Chow Kan
  • Ching Miao - Ho Tao's father
  • Norman Chu - Chang
  • Ha Ping
  • Linda Lin Di Ho
  • Hsiao Ho
  • Huang Pa-Ching
  • Kei Ho Chiu
  • Yasuaki Kurata - Takeno, Japanese ninjutsu expert
  • Yasutaka Nakazaki - Japanese Sai expert
  • Hitoshi Ōmae - Japanese judo expert
  • Riki Harada (English credits say Takeshi Yamamoto) - Japanese Iaido expert
  • Nobuo Yana - Japanese Sōjutsu expert
  • Yūjirō Sumi (English credits say Tetsu Sumi) - Karate expert
  • Hayato Ryūzaki (English credits say Manabu Shirai) - Nunchaku expert
  • Naozō Katō - Japanese Master
  • Hoi Sang Lee - Bald pupil
  • Lau Kar-leung - Drunken master
  • Lui Hung
  • Poon Bin Seung
  • San Sin
  • Wilson Tong
  • Yeung Wah
  • Yuen Siu Tien - Ho Tao's teacher

DVD release[edit]

Dragon Dynasty released the DVD in North America on 27 May 2008.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]